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Lt. Gov. Smith announces free admission to state parks on Black Friday

ST. PAUL - Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr announced Friday that entrance fees to all 76 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas will be waived on Nov. 27 for "Free Park Friday," encouraging Minnesotans to spend time outdoors, and with family, on the day after Thanksgiving.

"At a time of year when Minnesotans pause to give thanks, I am so grateful for the incredible state parks and trails we have here in Minnesota," Smith said in a release. "Visiting these parks is a great way to spend time with family and loved ones, relieve stress, and enjoy exercise in the great outdoors."

Gov. Mark Dayton proclaimed Nov. 27 to be Free Park Friday at all Minnesota state parks and recreation areas. Dayton also directed Landwehr to exercise his statutory authority to issue a written order, waiving entrance fees to state parks on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

"We are very fortunate to have such outstanding state parks and trails in Minnesota," Landwehr said. "So get out there, walk off your turkey dinner and have some fun on Friday!"

Research shows that spending time outdoors benefits children and adults, including improving mood, enhancing creative thinking and problem solving, promoting a conservation ethic, and improving physical fitness. On Thanksgiving Day, the average American consumes around 4,500 calories. A brisk walk can burn about 300 calories in one hour.

"There is a Minnesota state park within 30 miles of almost everyone," said Erika Rivers, director of Minnesota State Parks and Trails. "So no matter where you live or celebrate Thanksgiving, the restorative power of nature is always nearby."

Minnesota's state parks contribute to a $13 billion tourism industry in Minnesota, a key sector of the state's economy. At 2012 study from the DNR found that Minnesota state parks draw in over $230 million in spending to local communities each year. An estimated 69 million domestic travelers and 270,000 international travelers vacationed in Minnesota in 2013.

"Outdoor recreation is a main draw for visitors to Minnesota and numerous state parks and recreation areas are a big part of Minnesota's tourism economy,"said John Edman, director of Explore Minnesota. "State parks are nestled near vibrant communities where you can find cozy hotels, B&Bs, resorts, dining options, unique festivals and something new to experience only in Minnesota this season."

Those visiting Minnesota state parks and recreation areas Nov. 27 are encouraged to share their adventures on social media using #FreeParkFriday and #OnlyinMN.